I have this really intense memory of praying with my grandmother, Bunny, when I was about five. We had just moved home to Memphis from Texas. I was cuddled up on the top bunk in their upstairs bedroom and she was standing next to me. We were praying normal things I’m sure but then she prayed that God would help her to lose some weight. I remember stopping her and saying “what?” She explained that she was a little too chubby or could stand to be a little smaller or something. Honestly, it wasn’t her explanation that threw me or stuck with me. It was the wish. She was 64 and seemed just right…and actually quite remained that way to me until her death two summers ago.
As she quietly slipped away in hospice, my dad snapped this picture of her hands. And although it was unspoken until her funeral, it turns out that those hands were something we all loved. Always ready to hold. Always ready to comfort. Effortlessly able to glide across piano keys even well into her 90s.
What I loved about her has nothing to do with perfection. It had nothing to do with weight, which by the way, she never did lose. I sat thinking on these things at the piano she gave me as I looked at the framed picture of her hands. Sun spotted, round, wrinkled, and soft. Oh so soft.
I miss her. I miss her flaws. I miss her strengths. And I think of her, and how she was always surprised that we all thought the world of her.
And I think of my own constant fight against American perfection. Perfection that is actually QUITE unattainable. I think about the wrinkles I’m noticing in videos my husband takes of the kids and me. And about the layer of fat and cellulite around my mid section that is now my constant friend. I tell myself it’s proof that my body made twins and carried them all the way. I tell myself it is a reminder that my body was and is strong. And sometimes, I believe myself. Other times, I look in the mirror or photos and grimace at my increasing lack of perfection…perfection that will continue to slip out of my fingertips.
Our bodies slowly age. Weight gets harder to shed. Wrinkles become more pronounced. Sleep is more needed. And you know what? Nobody cares, but us.
I never looked at my Bunny, or now my parents, or husband or friends and love them any less for the wrinkles or weight or frailty or weakness.
We are our own worst enemies, aren’t we? Always picking and prodding and striving for things that just don’t matter. Always trying to hide our flaws.
I found a picture of myself at 25, and I looked amazing. I thought, “oh my gosh, I peaked at 25. Look how great I look!!!” Then I apologized to Matt because he met me on the decline. And he immediately said, “but I bet you didn’t like yourself at 25, either!” And he was right. I didn’t. I worried about the dangliness of my triceps and my belly’s relationship with low-rise jeans (thank goodness that stupid trend went the way of polyester and man perms, I hope they stay in fashion Hell, forever) and the flippiness of my hair.
As we all grow another year older, maybe we should alter our goals from perfection to something better.
Be healthy and move your body, BUT…
Also, just be.
Be who you are. Who you were created to be.
Eat the scone (or kolache if you live in Texas) and enjoy it. Have the glass of wine and be merry, despite the fact that you are “drinking your calories.” Add the cream to your coffee and yeah, lie to your fitness app about it. Its ok. Unfollow the fitness professional on Instagram with the tight abs and perfect body-chances are you will never ever be shaped that way, anyway. Very few people are, but all 137 of them have Instagrams showcasing their six packs.
Remind yourself that your body and your skin have been your constant companions in life and they are friends, not enemies. That the people in your life love you for your mind and your heart. They love you for your jokes and advice and kind eyes. If your eyes are now increasingly framed by lines, it means you’ve laughed harder and loved more deeply.
Stop caring what “they” say and “they” think. Stop taking random internet advice. Stop stop stop and be be be.
My Bunny, with the extra weight she never lost and the wrinkles that deepened over the 36 years I knew her, and the frailty that eventually killed her…never ever stopped being. She always sat and listened and cried or laughed and held our hands with her soft perfect ones. She always hummed little harmonies to our melodies. She always sought out new friends, even in the form of her hospice nurses. She always apologized for little grievances that didn’t even offend.
Who she was, was her crowning glory. Who she was is who I miss. I hope at the end of it all, that’s how my loved ones will feel about me.